If you were to ask Hollywood icons how to deal with toxic colleagues, you would get a variety of answers. Adam Sandler’s suggestion might be to “Just Go With It,” Elsa would instruct you to “Let It Go” and Bill Murray might laugh and tell you to get used to it because every day is “Groundhog Day” when you’re dealing with toxic people at work.
Adam, Elsa and Bill may know what works in their fictional worlds, but in real life you need audacity when dealing with toxic coworkers.
You have just as much right to feel your feelings as your employees do. But the difference is that, as a leader, it is your responsibility to foster a positive working environment, despite some employees’ toxicity directly affecting your efforts.
With your Extreme Leadership, the groundhog has seen its last shadow.
By learning why toxic colleagues have such a damaging effect, and what to do about it, you will be halfway toward successfully combating their negativity. The second half of the formula is undergoing executive leadership coaching to guide you through how to most effectively block out negativity and let positivity shine.
Why Are Toxic Colleagues So Damaging?
When you hear the word “toxic,” you might imagine a steaming, bubbling and poisonous concoction destroying anything it touches. That’s Hollywood’s vision, but in the workplace while toxicity is just as damaging, it has an uncanny ability to disguise itself.
Toxic employees, even those who are high-performing, exhibit behaviors that have a negative impact on the work environment and cause emotional distress or mental health issues to others.
Toxicity creates an unwelcome and unpleasant environment.
Individuals who are toxic generally blame others and rarely take responsibility for their destructive actions or behaviors, which enables a workplace culture that can lead to increased turnover and unhappy employees.
5 Ways Extreme Leaders Can Effectively Manage Toxic Employees
Extreme behavior that affects your entire team, and ultimately the success of your organization, requires extreme action. Think Bruce Willis in true John-McClane-hanging-off-of-Nakatomi-Plaza style. Well, maybe slightly less dramatic, but just as audacious.
It is up to you to take action to create a positive workplace culture.
Lead the way with audacity and love by implementing the following practical tips so that your employees won’t have to deal with toxic coworkers.
1. Identify the Challenges
Hollywood makes it obvious who the villains are. After all, how else would our favorite heroes know how to defeat them?
Dealing with toxic coworkers can feel like battling Hollywood villains, because oftentimes they don’t even recognize their own negative behavior. Extreme Leaders need to discover how to unearth the subtle warning signs because toxic work colleagues can have an incredibly adverse impact on the entire organization.
By identifying these signs, you can determine where to focus your attention, and what factors are contributing to the toxicity. Understanding underlying issues allows you to effectively manage them before situations worsen and create deep fissures that ultimately affect business productivity.
Here are some of the issues that contribute to toxic behaviors:
- Coping with the change management process
- Taking on new responsibilities
- Dealing with personal challenges
- Living through global issues, such as a pandemic
Most toxic behavior is unintentional and has deep-rooted causes. By having more empathy as a leader, you can overcome the effects and focus on how to support your employees.
2. Prioritize Your Self-Care
Self-care is a powerful way to handle toxic work colleagues. Just like most of us, even employees who come off as grumpy or gruff, crave care and attention for their well-being.
People who feel tired or stuck in a rut tend to be irritable, and that negativity spreads like wildfire to those around them.
It is crucial that you battle this by engaging in self-care.
By allowing yourself time to deal with work stress in a healthy way, you not only prevent your own negativity or toxicity, you also show employees that self-care is valuable and important to your organization.
As the leader, your actions and attitudes, whether positive or negative, have a profound effect on employees. By managing your self-care, you will bolster your employees’ well-being and increase productivity.
3. Deal with Toxic Coworkers by Hiring an Executive Leadership Coach
No movie can be made without an entire production crew, and no leader can manage toxic employees without support.
Sometimes one or more employees can become toxic to the point where they are incredibly difficult to manage. Oftentimes, this occurs when someone has stayed in their position or with the company too long, or they develop bad habits and energy that are contagious to their colleagues.
When toxicity goes unchecked, it can become a burden that is impossible to bear alone.
Engaging in an executive leadership coaching program is always beneficial but is never more critical than when dealing with high-performing toxic employees. Your coach will assist you by:
- Enhancing job satisfaction which reduces turnover rate and layoff risk
- Improving communication within your organization
- Improving business productivity
- Fostering stronger relationships among employees which results in fewer conflicts overall
- Building positive energy in the workplace
An executive leadership coach is the best investment when it comes to dealing with toxic people at work.
4. Create a Positive Work Environment
Working in a toxic environment can be difficult and stressful. We spend so much time with our co-workers that it is difficult to not be affected by their negativity and have it spill over into our personal lives.
When toxic behavior is enabled, other employees can feel victimized, and they often react by lashing out or abruptly leaving the organization. This compounds the issues as your organization’s leadership has to scramble to replace valuable employees.
As an Extreme Leader, you are the hero that must defeat the villain before it destroys everything.
In this case, the villain is toxicity and “everything” is your employees and organization. You can fight the good fight by creating a positive and passionate working culture.
Extreme Leaders can work toward building that culture in the following ways:
- Lead with love. Show compassion and empathy to enhance positive working relationships among colleagues.
- Foster diversity and inclusion. This leads to increased creativity and innovation, improved decision-making and a reduction in toxic behaviors that emerge as a result of biases.
- Support your employees. Show this with clear communication and well-defined expectations.
5. Encourage Toxic Employees to Transform their Work Ethic
It is rare that a toxic employee showed up to their first day of work that way. Generally, the behavior is learned and compounded over time, which means it can also be unlearned.
An Extreme Leader unearths the underlying issues and leads with empathy and love in order to guide an employee to transform toxicity into positivity. It takes dedication, time and consistency, but the return on investment is massive.
Open Up the Conversation by Listening
Listening is an incredibly underrated way to manage toxic employees. When you listen, you show empathy, concern and respect for your employee. Part of that is inquiring about their feelings and thoughts, which creates an environment where employees feel safe to share openly and honestly without fear of judgment, not just with you, but with each other as well.
When you listen closely and ask pertinent questions, you create opportunities to understand toxic employees on a deeper level, which allows you to manage them effectively.
Provide Positive Feedback Privately
One of the quickest ways to raise an employee’s guard is by publicly embarrassing them. For toxic employees, this guarantees a reaction that will negatively impact their colleagues.
But when you listen to an employee’s concerns and provide honest feedback privately, you show your empathy and respect for them and their standing within your organization. You have a first row seat to their issues, so a thoughtful opinion delivered in an understanding tone is sure to lead to improvement. Surprisingly, many toxic employees are not self-aware and don’t recognize the impact of their words, actions and behaviors on others.
Your feedback may be a catalyst for change.
Clearly outline expectations, give specific instructions and offer support as they work through their challenging situation. Explain how important they are to you, your team and your organization and show that you believe in their ability to become a better person.
Explain the Consequences of Their Behaviors
If toxic employees can’t recognize the impact of their behavior on others, they certainly won’t understand the consequences. If nobody provides honest feedback, their behaviors will remain unchecked and will continue to negatively affect the workplace.
But when you clearly explain the consequences that will result from an employee’s toxic behavior and show that you support their efforts to improve, you are offering the resources they need to effect change.
Leaders must have the audacity to face these difficult conversations head-on, and hold employees accountable for actions and behaviors that violate company policies.
Find a Win-Win Solution
In the movies, villains have a unique origin story, and toxic colleagues are no different.
Some want to control, some need to feel heard and others display passive-aggressive behaviors rather than engaging in conflict resolution.
By understanding individual needs, it is easier to transition out of problem identification and into problem-solving mode. No matter the root cause of the issues, it is vital to remind everybody that your overarching goal is to create a positive and productive work environment.
How a Leadership Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach Can Support Your Leadership Journey
In order to defeat the villain of toxic behavior, you need a superhero sidekick. Bringing in a leadership keynote speaker or hiring an executive coach will guide your heroic efforts and support a culture of positivity.
Be the audacious hero and create the happily-ever-after your employees deserve.